I've been super lucky in my time when it's come to European travelling. My Dad was big on seeing lots of countries when I was growing up, and as a result - according to my Been app - I've been to 63% of Europe, which isn't too bad I don't think. The only problem with going when you're a teenager as opposed to the age I am now is that I don't think I truly realised how expensive it would for me to go back to those countries by myself, and I'm not sure I appreciated them enough when I was there. Don't get me wrong though, I'd love to see the rest of the world at some point too. I've barely been anywhere else in the world, never got myself on a long haul flight and I will definitely have to rectify that. But those things cost money I don't have, whereas Europe isn't too hard to get to, especially now my colleague has introduced me to the "everywhere" tool on SkyScanner (how much was I missing out?!).
But still, even with 63% there are some big countries I still haven't been to, that I'm desperate to get scratched off my little world scratch map. First on the list is the Czech Republic. Having been slightly disappointed by the lack of architecture in Reykjavik on my recent trip there, Prague in particular is supposed to be full of a thousands different styles - Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau and Cubist all plonked in one city sounds like something I could really get along with. Plus the beer is meant to be amazing.
Next is Switzerland. A country with sweet architecture, colourful buildings, a mix of cultures with all the influences from France, Italy and Germany mixed into one little country, all with amazing mountain region backdrops? Perfect. Plus they clearly make some pretty good cheese and chocolate and I can't think of a better reason to visit a country than it having those. I didn't get chance to see much of Iceland's natural scenery, so I can't think of a better way to repent than going to see Switzterland's.
Poland. You can get some seriously awesome deals on flights out to Poland, so I don't think this one will be particularly hard to tick off the list, I just don't want to visit when it's too cold! I quite fancy taking a trip to Kraków to see its medieval streets and castle, and I wouldn't mind a trip to Schindler’s Factory Museum or heading out to Auschwitz either. Plus the country is still affordable, even with the crap state of the pound at the moment.
Finally, Hungary. I feel like the world and his wife have headed out to Budapest recently and I want to join that crowd of people. Part of this is because they seem to have such an excellent cafe culture over there, and I need no excuses to spend some lazy times sitting in a cafe with a coffee and a cake. And afterwards, you can just be even lazier by visiting a thermal spa. Perfect.
Have you been to any of these countries? Or would you suggest somewhere else to go?
However, currently winning in the local roast dinner stakes is a small pub in Kennington. I think if I could be really arsed, I could find somewhere maybe just a bit better, but this place will do for a while. And it means that on the walk there, I get to pass through a small collection of streets known as the Walcot Conservation Area, not far from Elephant and Castle.
It's only a small collection of streets, but I love it. I love the way you just don't expect it to appear, especially if you've just walked through Elephant and Castle, which isn't exactly known for it's London beauty. I love the fact that although times have moved on and the shops don't exist anymore, their ghost signs and their shop fronts live on. Plus, who doesn't love a gorgeous London townhouse? One day I'm determined to own a house with a big black front door and steps to the top, I just doubt that day will be any time soon.
Thank god the weather has got worse. If anyone knows me, they'll know that I just can't handle any form of heat - I genuinely thought I might have melted into a puddle when I was in Greece earlier this year and I'm pretty grateful I live in England, where the weather is always more suited to the fact that I like average temperatures. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll probably moan if it's too cold too.
One thing that keeps me happier during the colder months is that I start to enjoy shopping just a little more. Summer makes me start to hate shopping - it's impossible to find clothes that work for boiling hot tubes, freezing cold air conditioned offices and trying to look smart enough for work is vaguely impossible in thirty degree heat. When the weather turns, I feel like I'm "free" again and can actually start looking for clothes I really like instead of clothes that are just practical.
I've started to fall in love with bibs. When I first discovered they were a thing I genuinely thought they were ridiculous. But actually, they're super practical. I love having collars on jumpers, but I can never find shirts that look good and fit, let alone look good below tight fitting jumpers. Bibs seem to be a really good alternative, and there are so many different options. This River Island bib means you can "jazz up" a jumper easily with a little embellishment, and they're so easy to mix and match too.
I've fallen in love with a number of Whistles bags recently, even though I doubt I'd ever buy one. I love them, but I've never been one for spending a lot of money on bags. I've had another one sat in my ASOS wishlist for well over two months, maybe one day I'll splash out.
What are you all looking out for at the moment?
I'm really behind on Bakealong. Really, really behind. And I doubt I'll ever catch up. I tried to make a Bakewell Tart, and I found the whole process to be relatively soul destroying. I made the worst Bakewell Tart that has ever existed. I couldn't even post the recipe and pretend it tasted nice because the photos were okay (lets not pretend that's never happened...), because it didn't even look nice. I somehow managed to burn the pastry, under-cook the frangipane and also accidentally left cherry stones in the jam. My boyfriend valiantly tried the disaster, but after nearly choking he decided to chuck it in the bin. For the best...
Then it was "botanical week" and if I'm honest I was so bloody underwhelmed! I thought of all the flavours and the edible flowers and herbs and whatever else that could be used, and instead it was basically a lemon meringue pie and a cake with flowers on. Hmph.
So I didn't wan't to make anything from that. Instead, that week I made rose truffles. I'd been messing about on the internet and found a wonderful company called Sous Chef who happened to be selling rose petals and I picked some up. Their website also had this recipe, so I had to try it! How pretty are they?!
The recipe only calls for sugar, but I'd also bought some rose sugar, so had to use that and double up on the rosey taste. I found that the recipe made the truffles a little soft, so in future I'd be adding a little less cream. And for once, I have made something that was an honest success. If you're looking to make something easy, quick, tasty and ridiculously pretty, then this is definitely the recipe for you.
On a side note, I was so impressed with Sous Chef. They're such a great price and delivery was super quick. If you need random little baking bits, they're worth a look.
A few weekends ago it was Open House weekend. For any of you that don't know, Open House Weekend started in 1992 as an organisation to help promote public awareness and appreciation of the capital's building design and architecture, by opening up buildings that are often closed to the public. I love the idea of it, and every year without fail I always seem to mess up on actually going and attending some buildings. Unfortunately this year was pretty much no different. Oops!
I was desperate to go and see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - unfortunately so was half of London, and the queue was much bigger than I'd anticipated. I'd also managed to miss all of the ballots to get into some of the really popular places. My only saving grace is that I've been to a couple of the things that I missed the ballot on - Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Portcullis House.
We did however, manage to get into the Treasury before it closed and I grabbed a few snaps. You didn't get to see as much as the FCO, and I have a feeling it wasn't as pretty either, but then the FCO does seem to have almost legendary status on Open House weekend. Next year, I will buy a programme, I will get up early and I definitely will enter some ballots and get in some queues!
If anyone has any tips on what to see next year, let me know!